Geophysical and geotechnical assessment of a railway embankment failure

Shane Donohue, K Gavin, A Tolooiyan

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A geophysical investigation was carried out after the failure of an important railway embankment in the south-east of Ireland. The embankment, which had a long-term history of stability problems, was studied using a combination of ground-penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW) and geotechnical testing. A significant thickening of the ballast layer around the failure location was observed using GPR, which confirmed the existence of an ongoing stability problem in the area. ERT profiles determined the presence and spatial extent of a significant layer of soft clay both beneath and to the east of the embankment, which could have a major impact on its long-term stability. ERT also detected steeply sloping bedrock close to the failure zone that is likely to have contributed to the long-term settlement of the embankment, which necessitated frequent re-ballasting. MASW confirmed the presence of the steeply sloping bedrock in addition to determining the low stiffness (G(max)) values of the embankment fill. High quality sampling of the soft clay deposit was undertaken and strength and compressibility tests revealed the importance of this layer to both the on-going serviceability problems evident for the original embankment and the stability problems encountered by the remodelled section.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-44
Number of pages12
JournalNear Surface Geophysics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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